The examples described here only scratch the surface in terms of ways in which we might
interact with future computers of any shape or form.
orientation of the display is the primary form of
From Interactive Blobjects to Curved Computer
Interactions. In the Interactive Blobjects project, we
are today exploring opportunities afforded by marrying everyday objects with oddly shaped displays
through tracking and projection. For example,
Dynacan, the dynamic beverage can shown in Figure
6a, is an early prototype of a fully recyclable curved
computer. Its display features Flash animations, videos,
and RSS feeds. Future versions will be made of flexible
full-color E-Ink, powered by a processor and battery
pack inside the can. Users can scroll by rotating the
can, which is sensed by a set of accelerometers. Electronic components can be made detachable prior to
recycling the can. Dynacan is part of a larger workbench investigating OUI design. Figure 6b shows how
any piece of cardboard, curved or a cube, can simulate
a computer interface. By selecting dials, menus, and
interactive skins from a palette of interaction styles
(shown in the background) a simple cardboard box is
turned into a fully functional iPod. Press a finger on
the palette and the iPod becomes a fully functional
iPhone instead. More complex blobjects are also possible, like architectural cardboard models with live animated textures, or interactive spherical displays, like
the Google Earth browser in Figure 6c.
The examples described here only scratch the surface
in terms of ways in which we might interact with
future computers of any shape or form. Possibilities
include computers with displays that are curved,
flexible, and that may even change their own shape
in order to better fit the data, or user for that matter.
In Organic User Interface design, these computers
will no longer be conceived of as distinguishable
from the world in which they live. All physics acting
upon displays, including their shape, will be used to
manipulate information. Functions will be triggered
through form changes that follow the flow of the
ever-changing world of the user. In a world where
multi-tasking is increasingly common, the chief purpose of an OUI is to interweave a plurality of highly
contextualized, interspersed activities across a variety
of disconnected contexts. One challenge will be for
it to do so in a manner that carries consistency across
activities and contexts. Rather than a single OUI acting as an advanced Swiss army knife, users need to
utilize the OUI that comes in the form most appropriate for a particular activity. Flexibility should not
be misinterpreted as “one OUI fits all”: it is exactly
in celebrating the diversity of display shapes that a
wealth of OUI designs will find their purpose.
In the not-so-distant future, curved, full-color, flexible LEDs, OLEDs, or E-Ink displays will appear in
our homes, furniture, e-books, jewelry, and clothing.
When tired of the color of your suit, the pattern of
your wallpaper, or the interface on your cellphone, you
simply download a new one from an online store.
Some hardware interfaces may one day be monitized
like software entirely, substituting the wasteful trend of
buying new atoms with that of more eco-conscious
bits. That would be a final frontier in the design of
computer interfaces that turns the natural world into
software, and software into the natural world. c
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DAVID HOLMAN ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Ph.D. student in the
Human Media Laboratory at Queen’s University in Canada.
ROEL VERTEGAAL ( email@example.com) is an associate professor of
Human-Computer Interaction at Queen’s University in Canada, where
he directs the Human Media Laboratory.